SALT LAKE CITY — Lab fees of $162. Textbooks costing $225. Cheerleaders paying up to $1,100.
The costs for academic services and extracurricular activities at Utah’s schools is adding up, and state and local governments aren’t doing enough to comply with policies on fees and fee waivers, according to an audit released Thursday by the Utah State Board of Education.
In all, the state’s public schools collected $71 million from students in 2017, a 29 percent increase over five years, the audit found.
In addition to the cost, the sheer number of fees also increased by 18 percent from 2012 to 2017. So more students are paying more money for more fees.
But even as the fees went up, the proportion of students taking advantage of waivers or working instead of paying fees has gone down by 4 percent. Among the 35 schools that the audit examined, 17 percent gave different treatment to students and parents on waivers.
The system has become “unreasonable,” the audit concluded. Without a change, the board warned that some students who aren’t able to pay will end up not participating in school activities.
“My frustration is, I think some schools have just got used to these fees,” Bryce Dunford, a father of 10 and member of the Jordan School Board, told the Deseret News. “They don’t think about them anymore. They don’t ask the question ‘What are they for?’ That’s what we need to do.”
Fees for extracurricular activities were found to be higher than those for academic fees, such as library fines and textbooks. Many of the fees are not mandatory, and instead represent opportunities for new activities at school.
Ahead of the audit’s release, the state school board voted to create a task force on school fees to review the audit’s findings.
“There’s a high sense of urgency with this,” Scott Jones said, the deputy superintendent of operations.
Information from: Deseret News, http://www.deseretnews.com